Category Archives: Church

When Disabilities Keep Us Away From Church

IMG_4362New England winters mean that cold temperatures keep me and John pretty much housebound. Both of us have respiratory issues (he uses ventilators 24/7) and I have increased muscle tightness that makes it difficult to operate my power wheelchair . As a result,we miss a lot of church between the months of December and March.

Even in good weather, the unpredictability of the paratransit system combined with my evening Personal Care Attendant’s schedule prohibits us from active involvement in midweek Bible Studies and ministry opportunities in our church. We’d both dearly love to serve our wonderful church family, but our circumstances simply prohibit anything beyond Adult Sunday School and Sunday services (unless there’s something directly after the service).

Thankfully, our pastor and elders understand our physical limitations and treat us as valued members of the body. One elder visits during the winter months, often bringing hymnals and the Lord’s Supper while another elder and his wife allow us to be honorary grandparents to their four children. That attention helps us feel connected, as do the online audios of our Sunday School class and our pastor’s sermons.

But it’s not the same as being there.

Several of my fellow bloggers periodically write about the importance of regular church attendance and the necessity of actively serving in a local church. I agree with everything they say. Although reading their posts causes pain because of our particular circumstances, I cheer them on for admonishing Christians to be actively involved in their local churches. Scripture calls for such commitment.

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~~Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

When I hear able-bodied people say they skipped church to do something recreational, to sleep in, or because they just didn’t feel like going, it angers me. Do they have any idea how heartbreaking it is to cancel our paratransit reservations Sunday after Sunday because the thermometer won’t move above the mid-thirties? Do they know what I’d give to serve on the Missions Committee or as a deaconess? Despite my current reservations regarding AWANA, it crushes me to hear the leaders beg for workers because I can’t volunteer.

I write this article, not to make anybody feel sorry for me and John (throughout our decades of being single, the Lord blessed each of us with opportunities to serve our respective churches), but to encourage you to be active in your churches as much as you possibly can. Sunday services aren’t an obligation; they’re a joyous privilege!

This winter, as in the other 15 winters of our marriage, John and I will rejoice in God’s faithful provision of online teaching and visits from church friends. The Lord will take excellent care of us, as He always does. But we look forward to that first warm Sunday morning when we’ll drive our power wheelchairs into that Sunday School classroom and into that worship service. There’s nothing like being with our brothers and sisters in Christ!

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Saturday Sampler: December 3 — December 9

penguin-sampler

Let’s begin with Pastor Colin Smith’s encouraging post, Three Ways Your Faith is Tested When God Says “No” in Unlocking the Bible. Drawing from God’s refusal to allow David to build the Temple, Smith explains ways that personal disappointment can actually develop our maturity in Christ.

The Santa Claus dilemma always catches Christian parents this time of year. You young moms out there might appreciate reading The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus? by Michelle Lesley. I like her Biblical and practical approach, especially in preserving the fun of Christmas without lapsing into sin or doctrinal error.

Andrew Gutierrez, in an article aimed primarily at youth leaders in The Cripplegate, admonishes us Thou Shalt Not Create Little “Christian” Narcissists. I include it here because all of us struggle with narcissism, and consequently would benefit from applying the principles that Gutierrez sets forth.

In the present climate of accusations against public figures, even pastors are subject to scrutiny. As Tim Challies demonstrates in Do Not Admit a Charge Against an Elder, Except..., churches have guidelines for disciplining their leaders in the pages of Scripture. Don’t miss this balanced and Biblical treatment of a crucial matter in today’s church.

Once again, Erin Benziger nails it with Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Pride in her Do Not Be Surprised blog. She has a gentle, but firm, caution for those of us in the Reformed camp that needs to be heeded.

In this season of giving, Lesley A. of Growing 4 Life encourages us to continue Serving All, All the Time. It’s refreshing to come across an essay elevating the practical application of God’s Word.

What Do We Really Know about the Three Wise Men? asks Mark Ward in his article for the Logos Software Blog. He uses this question from his own children to give us a practical lesson in separating fact from tradition as we interpret familiar Scriptures.

Writing for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson directs our attention to A Christmas Song that Doesn’t Belong … But Does. He does more than simply informing us of some hymn writing trivia (although that’s quite fascinating in and of itself); he causes us to rejoice in all of Christ’s promises to bring salvation.

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Saturday Sampler: November 26 — December 2

Flower mask sampler

Oh, praise the Lord for people like Elizabeth Prata who stand firmly on the Word of God! Her essay, Michael did not rebuke Satan in The End Time, needs to get into the hands of so many evangelicals and (especially) Charismatics who presume to command Satan and his demons! Once you read this superb post, I beg you to share it as widely as you possibly can.

The holiday crunch has officially begun, and Ryan Higginbottom of Knowable Word acknowledges that sometimes our time with God’s Word suffers as a result of the busy pace of the season. He writes How to Prevent a Spiritually Dry December to help ensure that we have sufficient Bible intake in the midst of our celebrating.

Doing a devotional study on Psalm 117, Josh Parsons assures us that God is Worthy of Your “Wow” in Unlocking the Bible. His piece will inspire you to worship throughout your day by reminding you how wonderful the Lord really is.

There are  certainly occasions when leaving a church becomes necessary. Yet  Eric Davis, in his post for The Cripplegate, provides suggestions for godly responses When Your Church Disappoints. And really,  every church will eventually disappoint us, no matter how faithful it is to  Scripture. Again,  however, sometimes the Lord does lead us to leave a church. Davis simply presents ideas to try before we call it quits.

Phil Newton, in an article for Founders Ministries, lists several ways that we can assist our pastors as they preach God’s Word each Sunday. The Congregation and the Pulpit encourages us to participate in this centerpiece of Christian worship.

Are you enjoying Erin Benziger’s series on acceptable sins in Do Not Be Surprised? Her latest installment, Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Worldliness, strikes a good balance between “being in the world and not of it.” The entire series challenges us towards personal holiness in areas we frequently ignore. If you haven’t been reading it, set aside time to do so.

I couldn’t agree more! Prompted by yet another firing of a celebrity for sexual misconduct, Growing 4 Life author Leslie A. lists Four Ways to Love Our Men as they struggle to remain pure in a culture saturated by sex. Ladies, we have a responsibility in helping our brothers in Christ.

Another creative and insightful blog post rolls off Michelle Lesley’s keyboard. A Pox Upon Our House: Three Chronic Diseases Plaguing Women’s Ministry all too accurately diagnoses service ailments affecting the spiritual health of women. Ladies, this article underscores my reasons for constantly calling you back to God’s Word.

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Saturday Sampler: November 19 — November 25

bible-sampler

Thanksgiving has passed, but the holiday season is just ramping up! You might want to read Michelle Lesley’s 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays for some practical evangelism ideas. I am planning on implementing #10 myself.

For an intriguing approach to Bible reading, consider Why You Should Live in the Psalms by Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another. I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll try his suggestions, but it definitely captures my interest. See what you think.

Obviously, bloggers this week focus quite a bit on Thanksgiving. Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life writes about the topic from an interesting angle in her blog post, Freezing Out Fear. It’s shorter than most of her posts, but it’s no less powerful.

The holidays can certainly bring out the best and the worst in us, can’t they? In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Melissa Krueger illustrates how A Beautiful Table and a Bitter Heart can dishonor the Lord.

Continuing her very convicting series on “acceptable” sins, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised gives us Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Selfishness. She makes points about this particularly damaging sin that I’d never considered, and her perspective might challenge you a little as well. The entire series is definitely worth your time!

We celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation nearly a month ago, but let’s not suppose that we can move on to other things and forget all about it. Equip, a blog out of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, features Stephen J. Wellum’s article entitled Are the Five Solas Biblical? We all need this refresher.

Pastor Gabe Hughes examines the recent #Churchtoo campaign on Twitter that intends to indict Christian churches for allowing (if not encouraging) sexual harassment and assault. His article, #Churchtoo: Confronting Sexual Abuse in the Church…And How Not To Do It, looks at the sin of sexual abuse from a Biblical perspective rather than as a reason to discredit Christianity.

Writing for Common Slaves, Joe Reed offers an extended quotation in Doctor’s Orders: Lloyd-Jones on obsession with polemics. If you can’t get enough of “discernment ministry,” you might do well to read this one.

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False Teachings Or Simply Disagreements?

Bible AloneWho is a false teacher? Sadly some popular “discernment” ministries are currently throwing out accusations of heresy against other well-known Christian apologists, largely over matters of how they approach their ministry.  Occasionally they also use non-essential points of doctrine as reason to anathematize people, but generally the battles boil down to pride.

A reader recently expressed her concern that “discernment ministry” types have been indiscriminately calling anyone they disagree with a false teacher.  In many instances, I must concur. The article she sent me, A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity by Al Mohler,  certainly offers a helpful guideline in determining what issues should divide Christians and when we can disagree without breaking unity. I encourage each of you to read it.

As helpful as Mohler’s article is, however,  perhaps Scripture provides an even better measurement. Some doctrines (such as women not teaching men within a church setting) are clearly stated in Scripture. Other principles (such as women writing Bible Studies on blogs that men will read) lend themselves to more ambiguity. In the first case, I will divide. In the second, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt. The second merely violates my personal convictions; the first violates God’s Word.

Paul addresses Christian liberty in a number of passages. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 directly speak to the necessity of avoiding judgmental postures over matters of individual conscience. Just because I believe, for instance, that I should wear hats to church doesn’t give me the right to insist that my sisters in Christ wear hats. But neither does their freedom to attend church bareheaded give them the right to judge me as being legalistic.

Suppose, however, that I devoted this entire blog to head coverings,  asserting that women who failed to cover their heads in church were in blatant rebellion against God’s Word. Suppose I wrote, in no uncertain terms, that head coverings were necessary to salvation. Ladies, if I did anything like that, I would most definitely be a false teacher. Furthermore, you would have a responsibility to contact First Baptist Church Weymouth to alert the elders that I promoted heresy. That sort of divisiveness must never be tolerated within the Body of Christ!

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. ~~Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)

As Christians, we must know Scripture well enough to distinguish between simple disagreements with our brothers and sisters in Christ and false teachings that worm their way into the church. In our zeal for doctrinal purity, let’s take care that we divide only from those who truly pervert the Word of God.

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Saturday Sampler: November 5 — November 11

Autumn Leaves Sampler

The lovely sister in Christ who blogs at Biblical Beginnings showcases a splendid, though relatively unknown, hymn by John Newton with Sunday Hymns from the Past – The Trembling Gaoler by John Newton. She could post only the lyrics, but they’re quite powerful and well worth reading.

As usual, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day nails it when she posts Worldly influence and the Church’s fixation on youth. I’ve seen what she describes first-hand, so I can attest to her accuracy.

Denny Burk’s piece, Pastors, be ready for questions about homosexuality and abortion, isn’t really just for pastors. While pastors should certainly take the lead in standing for Biblical truth in these vitally important areas, the rest of us also have a responsibility to proclaim the truth regarding these matters.

Barry York of Gentle Reformation cautions us against using theology to avoid actually practicing Gospel principles in his piece, You Can’t Reform What You Won’t Touch. His words made me rather  uncomfortable — and that’s undoubtedly a good thing!

Writing from her passion for the prophecy of Scripture, Elizabeth Prata profiles The Man Who Will Change the World in her blog, The End Time. We need the wonderful reassurance that Elizabeth finds (and shares) as she faithfully studies God’s Word.

In this week’s installment of her series on the seemingly insignificant sins that we routinely commit without feeling convicted, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised both challenges and encourages us with Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Worry. If you’ve missed previous posts in this series, you can find links to them at the conclusion of her article.

Amy Mantravadi opens her month-long series on thankfulness with a beautiful essay that closely parallels my own experience. Please read Thankful Thursday: The Communion of Saints both to appreciate the privilege of regular church fellowship and to rejoice in God’s provision for those of us who, because of physical limitations, can’t be as active as we want in our local churches.

It’s been a while since the ladies at Out of the Ordinary have posted anything, but Persis more than made up for their long absence with Doctrine Matters: Imputation. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that this is a dry theological article, consider the fact that the Lord encouraged me tremendously as I read it. Praise the Lord for using her words to deepen my assurance of His faithfulness!

Beware These Seven Counterfeit Gospels warns Kristen Wetherell in a contributing post for Unlocking The Bible. Her list, with each point backed up by Scripture, gives us an excellent framework for recognizing false teaching.

In a brief,  easily read, post on the Ligonier blog, R.C. Sproul helps us in the task of Understanding Free Will by letting us in on how Martin Luther resolved his struggles over this issue. It’s an interesting little insight into a hotly debated topic.

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Perspectives In Titus: Avoid False Teachers

Titus 3 9 thru 11

In the past few weeks our study of Titus has focused on how the Lord has saved us by His grace, causing us to look on non-Christians with compassion and giving us both the desire and the resources to perform good works. We left off last Monday with the thought that the doctrines of grace are profitable.

Today’s passage contrasts those profitable teachings with the unprofitable ideas of false teachers. To introduce these three verses, let’s read them within their immediate context.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. ~~Titus 3:4-11 (ESV)

Paul now instructs Titus to avoid foolish controversies, dissensions and quarrels about Jewish law. Remember that the Judaizers were going into the churches in Crete with the goal of compelling the believers to adopt Jewish law as part of their Christianity. In the process they stirred up controversies because their false teaching deviated from the Gospel that Paul and Titus taught.

Paul gave Timothy similar, more detailed, instruction in 1 Timothy 1:3-7, explicitly specifying that Timothy “charge certain persons” not to teach doctrine that differed from the teaching of the apostles. This parallel passage sheds light on Titus 3:9-11.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explain that the genealogies referred to here weren’t simply looking up family trees. Rather, they involved systems that ultimately led to Gnosticism. Regarding this particular verse, The Complete WordStudy Dictionary explains: “These Jews were turning the entire historical substance into mere myth. The genealogies were not treated primarily as historical documents but instead were subjected to a highly symbolic interpretive scheme. Names, dates and places supposedly contained hidden meanings which became the basis for esoteric doctrines.”

To Paul’s remark that such controversies are unprofitable and worthless, John MacArthur comments that “Proclaiming the truth, not arguing error, is the biblical way to evangelize.” Errors, such as those infiltrating the churches under Titus’ care, are best refuted by sound doctrine.

Moving to verse 10, we learn that the person who causes division is, according to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, one who chooses to follow his or her own way rather than than submitting to Biblical teaching. The Greek word means “to choose,” and it developed into the word “heretic.” The idea is that heretics choose their lies over God’s truth. In writing this command to avoid heretics, Paul definitely addresses the false teachers who disrupted the churches in Crete.

He issued a similar command in Romans 16:17, where he stated that divisive people oppose apostolic doctrine. Those who question things in a church that deviate from sound doctrine often get branded as being divisive, but Scripture makes it clear that true heretics divide themselves from God’s Word.

Paul tells Titus to give heretics a first and second warning (compare with Matthew 18:15-17). Barnes points out that these two warnings provide the offender with opportunity to explain his or her actions and to repent. Continued violation beyond that point demonstrates the person’s commitment to rebellion. Therefore, that person must be separated from the church.

Paul concludes in verse 11 with an explanation of why divisive people should be avoided. To put it bluntly, heretics who disregard warnings prove themselves to be warped. Vincent’s Word Studies defines the word here translated as warped to mean “turned inside out.” It communicates a sense of perversion. As a result, they live in a constant state of sin.

Furthermore, heretics condemn themselves by rejecting correction and sound doctrine. Whereas those whom God saves are justified by grace, false teachers condemn themselves by preaching salvation by works and/or by other deviations from Biblical teaching. The Lord Himself, in John 3:18, made it clear that failure to believe in Him puts a person under condemnation.

Obviously, Titus 3:9-11 should first and foremost be applied to pastors as instruction regarding church discipline. As women, of course, none of us will serve as pastors (at least, not without clearly violating Scripture). Yet we have a responsibility to avoid the false teachers that write books and appear on “Christian” television. Hopefully today’s  study shows the importance of such avoidance.

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